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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Entertaining 'Kids Are All Right' Could Have Been More

Adam, the high school social studies teacher sitting next to me last night at a screening of the funny but a bit cautious film The Kids Are All Right (3.5 RED DOTS), starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo film - made a great point. He said a line by the high school student at the end of the film was dead on. The problem is that I'm not sure the rest of the film was.
It's certainly enjoyable. Bening reminds us how teriffic an actress she is, especially during a dinner scene where she gets to sing a Joni Mitchell song. Moore is just delectable - funny and pretty without trying. And Ruffalo has loads of fun with the role as a too-good-to-be-true motorcycling stud surro-Dad and sensitive eco-restaurant owner.
What happened here, however, is that the writers set up an unconventional situation - a lesbian couple, each with a teenage child by the same sperm donor - and then went all conventional and predictable on us. So we get the usual extra-marital affair, an interracial relationship that's all about sex, a little drugs, some prettified lebian sex and one amazing college dorm room. It's all very entertaining but it doesn't take us anywhere. I'd much rather have a conventional situation and then be taken somewhere I wasn't expecting.
Funny, at the end of Letters to Juliet, I got a bit sentimental. Here nothing. But it was still a very fun ride.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Content With 'Winter,' A 'Letters' to Open and a Tattoo That's Worth Wearing; Plus a Credible New Jerusalem

Let's talk about movies. Winter's Bone (4 1/2 RED DOTS) begins by showing the everyday, ordinary lives of a family in the back backwoods of Arkansas. Right away, we can tell who must take care of everything - the two young kids, a withdrawn and silent mother, a house. Jennifer Lawrence carries the movie with a combination of strength, beauty, vulnerability, likeability and determination that very few young actresses could pull off. You get sucked into this world where relatives play like the mafia and look like they want to kill you one second and help you the next. It's very powerful, watchable and satisfying.
I'd also like to recommend a couple movies that have been around for a while: Letters to Juliet (3 1/2 RED DOTS) and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (4 RED DOTS). Letters to Juliet is a feel-good movie and there is a definitely a place for that in my world. The scenery of cities like Verona and Siena and the rolling hills of Tuscany make you want to head straight for a winery. It probably could have been a little better with a main character with a little more pizazz than Amanda Seyfried (Gwyneth Paltrow, Diane Kruger), but she's not bad. Christopher Egan shows a slight flash of a young Roger Moore, so let's see if he develops. But I came out of there with a smile on my face.
I really enjoyed Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - despite a couple tough scenes to watch. The methodical style reminded me of the original Insomnia. I am very much looking forward to the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, which I think opens this Friday. The crime-fighting duo in Tatto have genuine chemistry, from the first time she opens the door to their interesting sex scene - where she comes in unexpectedly and leaves as soon as it's over, with him wanting to cuddle - to the the final climax (as in conclusion).

The New Jerusalem is getting a lot of good reviews over at Theater J in the DC Jewish Community Center. They are a very polished company and pretty consistent. But for me, this is David Ives (the playwright behind the inventive and entertaining The Liar and the hilarious All in the Timing) Heavy. You can see that he was strongly attracted to this story of the philosopher Spinoza and does wonders to dramatize it to the extent he does. The staging is clever, Michael Tolyado delivers another wonderful performance and Alexander Strain is likeable as always. I would recommend it because Theater J deserves it. But let's hope someone brings back All in the Timing so we can see Ives in all his glory.